All Balls Don’t Bounce

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

Posts Tagged ‘rockets’

What’s Done Is Done

Posted by hiphopmama on May 17, 2009

Job well done. Or maybe just DONE.

Job well done. Or maybe just DONE.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Game recap:

Kobe and Pau postgame:

And Phil:

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

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Game 6 Editorial

Posted by hiphopmama on May 14, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Lakers>Rockets, but David>>>Lakers

Posted by hiphopmama on May 13, 2009

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

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

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All Tied Up

Posted by hiphopmama on May 10, 2009

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

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

LA Lakers 87, Houston 99
     Series tied 2-2

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

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

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

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Aww Shit

Posted by hiphopmama on May 9, 2009

yao

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

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

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A Champion Caliber Win

Posted by hiphopmama on May 8, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Highlights:

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

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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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Upset

Posted by hiphopmama on May 4, 2009

Story of the game: Yao tougher than Pau.

Story of the game: Yao tougher than Pau.

Houston 100, LA Lakers 92
     Rockets lead series 1-0

“Upset.” The word works on so many levels, but it’s still not the official word of the game. I’m going with the Josh tactic on this one and summing this game up with a single word: complacency. It wasn’t our ugliest game of the season, but the result was. Once again, we coulda/woulda/shoulda, but it means nothing as we head into game 2 down a game having lost home court advantage. And for the other Josh, anyone who says they’re “not worried” IS a lying little bitch. (And thanks for reading.) The Rockets are for real and look like a serious playoff team. They have all the ingredients even without their main man: a serious low-post threat, hard-nosed team D, and TWO good one-on-one defenders to put on Kobe, who, sore throat or no, could have done more in this one. 

The most troubling aspect of the game was how little involved we were able to get Pau over the course of 48 minutes. Phil kept talking about it in his stupid little mid-game interviews, but the result never changed. He kept getting pushed off the block and just looked tired to me. You knew all those extra minutes were going to have to catch up with him sooner or later, but this was a bad time for it to happen. To be honest, his game has been somewhat on the decline since the last few games of the regular season, as his usually astronomical shooting percentages started coming down into mortal territory – like, say, 60% or so. We didn’t really need a lot from him to topple Utah, but that won’t be the case in this series.

Which brings us to Bynum. It’s gotta be said – he needs to be coming off the bench. Not, in this case, because he’s playing poorly – which he kind of is – or because our chemistry was better with Lamar – which it was – but because the little dummy can’t stay out of foul trouble. I think he could be a huge asset in this series – he’s big, physical, and can bang Yao around on the block – so it’s crucial that he not be saddled with early fouls that keep him out of the game in important situations. Especially with Yao playing so well, we’ve got to have somebody in there that he has to work to defend. Otherwise it’s just too easy for him.

And Yao has certainly stepped his game up. I remember feeling bad for him when I’d watch him play because he looked so unsure of himself out there. He looked like he was scared to step on anyone’s toes or go up for a hard rebound. He’s still not the most physical player, but now he’s playing with some aggression and looks completely comfortable in his game, both the outside and inside components. Talk about clutch. Doug Collins kept saying how the script was similar to the four regular season meetings, but tonight Yao and Artest played the Kobe role of clutch shooting to hold onto their team’s lead and edge us out for home court advantage. Big hat-tip to them for that one. Adelman may be a twat, but he instilled some big ones in his boys to convince them they could come into our arena and beat us in a playoff game after getting swept 4-0 in the season series. He earned that number two spot behind Mike Brown for Coach of the Year.

This one hurt, no point denying it, but there are more games to come. PJ has been there enough that I can only figure he’ll have the right tools to get the team back on track and have them ready to even it up on Wednesday. That damn lay-off lasted too long and accounted for some early rust, but that’s not why we lost. The Rockets simply had a superior strategy for defending us that involved forcing our number one into difficult shots – worked for the first half – and forcing our number two out of his game completely – worked for the whole game – and outside of those two players we’re pretty shallow. Save for Lamar Odom, of course, who never seemed to get in the flow either with the physical interior play of Houston. Lesson learned, Tejanos. On to game 2. And Champions League action, to take my mind off that debacle.

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<3

Posted by hiphopmama on March 11, 2009

Lakers Rockets

LA Lakers 102, Houston 96

(51-13)

That’s what we showed tonight: heart. And composure. And persistence. And even a little bit of that swagger that eluded us last year against Boston. We came out decent enough and ended up playing the first quarter even, but the Rockets jumped on us in the second and took an 11 point lead and all the momentum into halftime. I don’t know what Phil told them at halftime, but it worked, because the Lakers rediscovered their defense and held Houston to 19 points in the third quarter and slowly but surely chipped away at the lead. Instead of wilting in the face of pressure, they just kept at it, knowing that if it was close down the stretch, only one team had the necessary tools to close the deal.

We reclaimed the lead on a Vujacic jumper at the 9-minute mark of the fourth quarter and never looked back. It was still tight the rest of the way, with the Rockets hanging around and occasionally tying it up, but they never had quite enough to take it from us. Or more accurately, we never let them. We really won this one in the second half with our defense. We suffocated Yao Ming on the block, making him look like a total butterfingers out there, and they were unable to punish our hanging off the weak side by knocking down outside shots. One V. Wafer had another good game against us, as did Aaron Brooks, but Houston had no one to go to in those close late-game possessions, while we rode comfortably on Kobe’s back. He had only 6 points in the first half, but his 21 in the second – including 18 in the fourth quarter – buoyed us to the victory. He did it in typically spectacular fashion, with the extra twist being his jawing session with Ron Artest. It started when the two got tangled up halfway through the fourth, Kobe taking exception to Artest’s physical play and responding in kind. From then on, they never stopped the back-and-forth, all the way through the requisite free throws and final buzzer. Artest is a good defender, but he didn’t do much to stop Kobe tonight, as Kobe scored on pull-up jumpers and slashes to the basket, as well as from the line to close it out. It was exactly as Clyde Drexler said – if it’s close in the final minutes, it’s advantages Lakers simply because of the existence of number 24.

I rarely do this, so let’s make it count: the Houston announcers were really good in this one. Clyde Drexler and the other dude were completely painless during the whole game, which is rare indeed for announcers of teams taking on the Lakers. Kudos to them. 

Highlights:

Game recap:

This was a much needed win after some extremely shaky play from us, especially going into the game tomorrow night against San Antonio. As I watched the game slip away from us in the second quarter, I started questioning the team, wondering if this would be the point in the season when it all slipped away. But then they found their resolve, played some D, and put the Rockets in their place, which is the middle of the Western Conference playoff picture. That’s pretty good considering they are without T-Mac, but still nowhere near challenging us in crunch time. 

One final shout-out: to Josh Powell for his 17 points and 9 boards in his cameo as starting power forward in Lamar’s absence. That was a serious contribution from a player who has earned his minutes in our crowded rotation. That face-up jumper is deadly and could be real helpful down the line. Oh, and his slam dunk on Yao was the play of the night.

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Clutch Performers

Posted by hiphopmama on January 14, 2009

Lakers Rockets

LA Lakers 105, Houston 100

(31-6)

This is the kind of game that would make me grimace if it were at home, but on the road it’s a perfectly acceptable win. I should preface that by saying that I missed the first three quarters – damn familial obligations =) – but from what I can gather it was played pretty close the whole way through. Neither team was able to win a quarter by more than four points. Until the fourth, that is, when the Lakers turned it on and proved just how important it is to have players confident enough to take, and fully expect to make, the big shot at the end of the game. I think we all know what that guy is for us.

Kobe was amazing last night in another heroic late game performance. I can’t vouch for his play the rest of the game – he shot only 13-for-32 overall – but he was 5-for-8 in the fourth quarter and kept the team afloat until the Rockets fumbled away their chances. From 93-93, a couple of Kobe jumpers and an Odom hook shot bumped us up to a four point lead, before Alston made a little floater in the lane with a minute and a half left. The next offensive set, a perimeter jump shot from LO was the best we could get, and when it missed, we watched as Battier got the ball after a broken play and drilled an open three from the corner to give the Rockets a one point lead. Frustrating, to say the least, because we’ve seen that scenario one too many times.

But from there on out, it was clear which team was built for these situations. With the shot clock winding down, Kobe pulled up – officially from 27 feet, but more subjectively from what I would call “way the hell out there” – with defenders in his face and absolutely drained a killer three. It was a knock-out blow; the Rockets never got another point. They had plenty of chances. Carl Landry, who was in the midst of a great game, looked at and then passed up an open shot, Alston missed a pair of free throws, and Yao wasted their last shot on a turn-around jumper (which he missed) despite the fact that they were down three and a two was essentially worthless. A few free throws from Pau were enough to seal the deal, but Kobe’s three was the real end for the Rockets. It sure is nice to have someone who can do that, eh?

And that’s all I know. Someone else will have to fill me in on how we were played so tight by a team missing both Tracy McGrady and Ron Artest, and how Kobe ended up with a Nelly band-aid over his right eye, but none of that matters too much since we got the W. Like I said, you expect to have less than perfect games on the road. What it’s really all about is keeping yourself close enough to give yourself a chance if you can finish well. And I think we all know we have the best in the business in that department.

Game recap and highlights:

And the last minute and a half, for your viewing pleasure:

My apologies for all the late write-ups recently. Apparently reading and the Lakers don’t mix – put that one in an NBA Cares commercial – because ever since I got hooked on books again my viewing and watching schedule has been thrown off. We’ll see if I can figure out how to do both, although my guess is that the books will fall by the wayside before the Lakers do. Just a hunch.

And now we are upon a serious set of games. We have the second of our back-to-back tonight in San Antonio to face a Spurs team that is almost as hot as us of late, winning eight of their last ten. They are coming off a loss, but it was to Orlando, which is an understandable defeat (let’s not bring that game up, please). On Friday we’ll be back at home to face the Magic ourselves and try to get some redemption after we couldn’t pull one out on their home floor a little while back. Orlando is a disgustingly good 31-8, just two losses off our pace, and they have been playing consistent ball the whole season, for the most part spacing out their losses and getting good wins in between. They have beat heavy hitters like San Antonio (twice), New Orleans, and us, and they’ve done it in multiple ways. Just looking at their line-up makes me shudder. Dwight Howard is a beast, averaging 20 points and more than 3 blocks a game, and pairing him with a surging Jameer Nelson is a potentially lethal combination. We haven’t exactly held our own against speedy point guards, especially when they have a big man counterpart, but I’m hoping that we can get the job done on our home floor. Finally, we take on Cleveland – again at home – on Monday in a battle between the teams with the best records in the NBA at the moment. I don’t think I need to say any more about that one. All I can say is I’m glad Lamar is back. We’re going to need every weapon we have to come out of these on top.

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