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

Posts Tagged ‘nuggets’

Four More Left

Posted by hiphopmama on May 29, 2009

The masterminds

The masterminds

LA Lakers 119, Denver 92
     Lakers win series 4-2

Finally. Finally we put two wins together, and two good wins at that, including one on the road. We played as a team, hustled for loose balls, and took advantage of our huge size advantage on the inside. All things we should have been doing from the beginning, sure, but at least it finally clicked and we got the job done at the first opportunity.  No need for a game seven, we got that crucial close-out experience on the opponent’s floor, and the whole squad got involved in an impressive effort. Am I gushing? If so, it’s only because I have so rarely gotten to do it in this postseason, so I have to take advantage of it now. As last year showed, you can’t count on anything going into that last series, so for now, congrats to the Western Conference Champions and good luck heading into the Finals. If we play the way we did tonight, it won’t be a problem. 

And have no doubt, tonight we put on a clinic. The team came out aggressive, fighting on every possession, offensive and defensive, and it really set the tone. Pau said in his press conference, and I completely I agree, that it was the first road game where they really came out with the right energy from the opening tip, and they pay-off was an early lead that they were able to slowly build over the course of the game. Denver made a run early and briefly took the lead, but we responded well and closed the first half with a 13-point lead that proved insurmountable on a night when our role players were hitting their shots. 

Speaking of role players, did you see Trevor Ariza tonight? He was the primary reason we got off to a good offensive start, hitting three first-half threes and helping build that early lead. He finished a ridiculous 7-of-9 for 17 points and more solid defense on Carmelo. Lamar also came through for the second straight game, grabbing 8 rebounds and scoring 20 points at a cool 7-for-12 clip. He even knocked down both his three-point attempts, and at crucial moments for the team. Luke Walton was our fifth player in double figures in his role backing up Ariza, who got into a little foul trouble chasing Melo around. His 10 points were what Doug Collins calls “found money” in that we weren’t counting on his scoring in any way so it was a nice boost.

And then there were the big two. I’ve always maintained that Pau is the team’s barometer, and he buoyed us to victory tonight. Lamar is the X-factor and puts us absolutely over the top, making us all but unbeatable when he’s on form. But even with just an average game from the supporting cast, a solid outing from Gasol will usually be enough to get us the win. That was the case again in game 6, as he went 8-for-12 for 20 points and padded his statline with 12 boards, 6 assists, and 3 steals. Not to mention all the solid interior defense he played. Pau’s D in the paint was one of the major factors in our quick start, preventing the Nuggets from getting to the rim or developing any kind of rhythm. I’m surprised to see that he only blocked one shot, but he certainly affected a great deal more than that. Kobe was just Kobe. He came out with the perfect balance between facilitator and scorer, picking and choosing when to dish the ball and when to go for delf. As always, he was clutch down the stretch, but his most important moments for the team were at the close of the first half, when he spurred a huge run to send us into the locker room with all the momentum. From his step-back three to his left-handed block on Anthony’s floater at the buzzer, he led his team by example and showed them what was needed to close out a series on the road. And speaking of sweet statlines, here was Kobe’s: 35 points, 10 assists, 6 rebounds, 1 block. All at an efficient 12-for-20 clip. You think he’s ready for the Finals?

Obviously that was a rhetorical question, but it’s not out of line to ask that question about the rest of the team. I hope and pray that this was finally the time when we turn the page on our iffy ways and put together a run of good games, but I’m hesitant to go that far. To be honest, this is more than I could have hoped for in game 6. Some Laker fan I am, I was expecting us to have to close it out at Staples on Sunday. Needless to say, I am properly humbled and vastly happy that it didn’t go that way, but I’m also too pragmatic to believe that we’ve put a complete end to our inconsistency. I think the most one can say is that we will hopefully carry the momentum of winning back-to-back good ones against a tough opponent with us as we prepare for an invariably tougher match-up with whoever we face in the Finals. Now that’s a road to be crossed on a different day. I’m just enjoying this one while it lasts.

Recap:

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That’s How It’s Done

Posted by hiphopmama on May 27, 2009

What can Brown do for you?

What can Brown do for you?

Denver 94, LA Lakers 103
     Lakers lead series 3-2

 Now that is how you play team basketball. With the talent level the Lakers have, there is no excuse for the kind of lackluster performances they’ve been turning in. Even in their wins the last two rounds, they haven’t played particularly well, just sort of scraping by and getting enough clutch plays from Kobe to make it through. There have only been two games in which we’ve played like the Lakers we’re capable of being: game 5 against the Rockets, and tonight. Those were the only two where the whole team showed up ready to scrap for every possession, dive for every loose ball, and it showed in the result. Maybe we’re only entitled to one a series. Whatever the case, I’m glad we got it tonight.

It’s ridiculous that it still needs to be reinforced at this point, but somehow the message got through that they needed to really get after the ball and play like it meant something. What a novel concept, I know, but it worked at reigniting the fire that has been missing from this team for some time. They actually looked like the team we saw run off long winning streaks in the middle of the season, with various role players stepping up at key moments to bolster the squad. Tonight, we got big assists from lots of places. The biggest one was Lamar Odom, who put down his bag of Gummy Bears and applied some Icy Hot before finally making a mark on a game in this series. I understand that his back is hurting and he’s battling through it, but it was nice to see him bring it all together in one game. Before the tip, I told my husband, “I’d like to see one of those games where Lamar grabs like 20 rebounds again.” He didn’t quite make it to 20, but he certainly fulfilled, being the offensive force we needed off the bench and running down rebound after rebound. Those four blocks didn’t hurt, either.

The other player to step up big time was Shannon Brown. His monster jam over Chris Andersen (I refuse to use his pseudonym) sparked both the crowd and the team and started the quarter-spanning run that saw us grow the lead to eleven points in the fourth. To be honest, he was playing so damn well, I didn’t want to see him go out, even (or maybe especially?) to bring Fisher in. By that time, more than halfway through the fourth quarter, it was all but locked up anyway, although Melo did manage to stretch it out for a couple more possessions. Luckily it was too little too late for the Nuggets, who will try to force a game seven back in Denver on Friday.

One note on Kobe’s understated statline tonight. He was simply masterful in this one. He scored just 22 on 13 shots, but he orchestrated the game to perfection, drawing the double-team, baiting the defenders, and then dropping it off like a quarterback dropping back for the screen pass. It was beautiful, and a sign of his maturity that he was advised before the game to be more of a facilitator tonight and he came up with the goods. No worries about scoring or shot attempts, only about Ws. He’s still got his issues, but selfishness is no longer one of them. 

And for the record, I don’t think either of the last two games was poorly officiated. Both coaches can shut the fuck up and eat a fat one if they want to blame a loss on the refs. Phil got his deserved fine, but Karl got his digs in tonight too, whining about “home whistles” and the like. Look, everyone knows there is some element of home cooking that goes on, but it swings both ways as the teams travel back and forth. If you have one less game on your home floor in a series, that’s your bad for underperforming in the regular season, not the league’s or the officials’ for calling it pretty darn consistently. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the NBA refs are the best in any of the big three sports. You can throw in international football (soccer) as well, though I can’t attest to officiating in hockey. I have some problems with calling cheap flagrants and technicals, but that’s a league office problem because they’re the ones who instruct the refs on how to make those calls in the first place. If you have a problem with that, take it up with David Stern, preferably by punching him in his smug little face. I can’t stand that guy. He can shove his dress code up the business end of his Armani suit.

Recap (first half only):

Oh, and my husband won $20 on the Champions League result. Color me blaugrana for the day.

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Still On Track For Seven

Posted by hiphopmama on May 25, 2009

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

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

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

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

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Home Court Advantage, Part Deux

Posted by hiphopmama on May 23, 2009

Threeeeee!!!

Threeeeee!!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Recap:

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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…

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Off to a Better Start

Posted by hiphopmama on May 20, 2009

Play of the game

 

Play of the game

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Game recap:

Highlights:

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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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A Heartening Loss?

Posted by hiphopmama on February 27, 2009

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

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

LA Lakers 79, Denver 90

(48-11)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Lakers Cruise Past Nuggets

Posted by hiphopmama on November 21, 2008

Look at those white legs!

Look at those white legs!

 

Denver 90, LA Lakers 104

(10-1)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Full game highlights:

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Iverson Officially A Piston

Posted by hiphopmama on November 3, 2008

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

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

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

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

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