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Posts Tagged ‘shaq’

We Have A Series

Posted by hiphopmama on June 9, 2009

Damn

Damn

LA Lakers 104, Orlando 108
     Lakers lead series 2-1

That was some shooting performance. The Magic just set an NBA Finals record for field goal percentage at 62.5%. And they won by four points. AND they were a Kobe Bryant brain fart away from facing another overtime and having to relive game 2 all over again. They earned this win, hands down, but I’m just saying. Good luck replicating that performance in game 4.

If there was one game the Magic were going to win, it was this one, and they made good. All those shots they were missing in the first two games were falling tonight, and then some. They were shooting 75% at halftime – good lord – yet they trailed most of the half until a late run put them up by a handful. Kobe put on a clinic in the first quarter and got the guys going enough to keep us close despite the lights out job the Magic put on us, but he cooled the fuck off after that and had trouble finding the basket in the second half. And then our precious closer did something we haven’t seen in over a decade – he failed to deliver in the clutch. After his amazing start, he seemed to force things a bit looking to continue his hot streak, but for once this season he didn’t have the recognition of what the defense was giving him (or not) to find the open man. Whereas in those last two games against the Nuggets he read the defense and conducted the game like a maestro, pulling all the right strings, tonight he was so determined to do it all on his own that the game got away from him and he worked himself out of his great rhythm. Add to that the fact that he started looking tired out there (at least according to Phil) and you have somewhat of an explanation for his five missed free throws and late game turnover when he had the chance to tie the game. You can take absolutely nothing from it – it was the one time out of a hundred when he didn’t come through – but his own stubbornness definitely played a role.

It was a tough loss, to be sure, but I’m happy for the Magic as an organization that they finally got a Finals victory. I remember pulling like hell for Orlando in that series against the Rockets so many years ago. I was in love with Penny Hardaway and Shaq could actually move in those days, and they were a fun team to watch. They were definitely my team during those two off years for MJ (with the Lakers doing nothing), and I was so hyped when they looked like they were going to take game one. And then Nick Anderson missed those four free throws. It hurt my soul, even more so when they went on to get swept. So I’m glad that the Orlando fans finally got to witness a win on this biggest of stages. I just hope they don’t get another one, at least not this year.

Tonight was frustrating for a lot of reasons, but one of the biggest was the fact that we didn’t really play poorly. We shot over 50%, only turned it over 13 times, and had five guys in double figures. Heck, our defense wasn’t even half bad. It wasn’t more than half good, but it was at least an effort, which we haven’t always seen from this team. The Magic were just hitting everything in sight, and out of it for that matter. They had FIVE GUYS over 18 points, including Rafer Alston with 20. Yuck. The good news was that we still had a chance to take this one at the end, and since you figure another 62% night is not forthcoming, we still look to be on track in this one. I don’t want anyone to get the impression I’m taking anything away from the Magic win tonight. This is one of the most resilient teams I have ever seen and I admire their heart at sticking with it and never giving up. And you can tell they really believe this series is still theirs to win, which comes down to great coaching. Stan Van Gundy always has his team ready and gunning at their opponents, which is more than you can always say from our sometimes underachieving bunch. Despite all of that, I have a hard time imagining them getting another performance like that this series, and there are many reasons why. For one, Kobe will not have another game where he reads things so poorly. If history has taught us anything it’s that he learns from his mistakes, and I fully expect him to get it this time as well. Speaking of adjustments, the all-time great we have calling plays on the bench is not likely to get out-coached or out-maneuvered, even by one as great at SVG. He will figure out the right adjustments and make them. And finaly, 62.5%?? That is a once in a lifetime shooting night, and with just two more of those shots clanking, we have a tie game and possibly a different outcome. I like our odds when you take all that into account.

Recap:

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Christmas Wish List: Lakers Edition

Posted by hiphopmama on December 24, 2008

santa-lakers

In honor of the holiday season, I’d like to present my petition to Santa Claus to help the Lakers regain their early season form. Feel free to let me know all the glaring omissions I made, because the Lakers have plenty to wish for at this point.

Dear Mr. Claus,

I know you’re a busy man, especially this time of year, and I also know that your schedule is tied up bestowing riches upon the Boston Celtics, but if you could find it in your heart to throw a little love in the direction of a humble Lakers fan it would be much appreciated. I’m not asking for anything on the order of a miracle on 34th Street, although a transformation at Staples Center is certainly welcome. As you are probably aware, avid sports fan that you are, the Los Angeles Lakers have been struggling of late and I feel you are the team’s only hope to find its motivation and reemerge as a powerhouse. I know what you’re thinking: The Lakers? You mean the team that bombed out of the finals less than a year ago to their hated rivals? They need extra motivation? Sadly,sir, that is indeed the case, as they are stumbling through games of late and finding it hard to beat teams like the Knicks and Grizzlies. They were even smacked around and defeated by the lowly Kings and required an all-out effort to beat them on two other occasions. 

I could go on, but suffice it to say that their 23-5 record doesn’t hint at the wayward tendencies eating away at the team’s soul. In true Christmas spirit, though, I know you will find it in your heart to award us at least a few of these requests, all modest in nature and exceedingly doable for a team as talented as the Lakers. Please take them into consideration when making your yearly rounds, and please also disregard the histrionics by Phil Jackson, Andrew Bynum, Sasha Vujacic, Derek Fisher (I apologize for all those T’s), and so many others on the team when making your way through the naughty list. They are just misunderstood and will one day be recognized for the emotional pioneers that they are. Thank you for your time.

  1. Effective defense on the screen-roll. I could be greedy and ask for an all-around revamped defense, but I promised not to beg for a miracle. Perhaps you know the answer to this eternal mystery, but the Lakers have never been able to defend this particular play under Phil Jackson, even during the championship years, and it continues to hurt the team, especially against teams with a big man who can shoot from distance. Which leads me to my next request.
  2. Better full court presence by all in guarding the perimeter. Andrew Bynum is not one of the current crop of Euro big men. He is over seven feet tall and plays like it, which is a considerable virtue these days, with his post presence making the defense collapse around him. The only problem, though, is that he isn’t comfortable following out adventurous big men like Rasho Nesterovic, Brad Miller, and Rasheed Wallace, resulting in open shots for all and a scramble on defense when he does follow them to the perimeter. It’s not his fault alone, as none of our front court players – or our back court players, for that matter – has been particularly effective at stopping the three, but he is a key part of the puzzle and part of the current strategy against us to pull our big men out of the lane to free up space. A little extra effort on his part wouldn’t hurt, either. The rest of the team is equally at fault, though, particularly for failing to put any kind of stop to penetration by speedy point guards. When the D collapses around them, the three is wide open from just about any position and begging to be exploited. Front and back court both need to take it up a notch.
  3. Two words: fewer turnovers. The TOs have slowed down since their peak a couple weeks ago, but they still show up far too often for a team of this caliber. The Lakers don’t need to be so adventurous; their regular old meat-and-potatoes approach is effective enough to get the team to 100+ points without forcing the ball in areas where it doesn’t belong. Recognizing when they don’t have numbers on the break would go a long way toward solving the turnover problem as well.
  4. A more disciplined overall approach. If Phil Jackson is the quality coach we’ve been led to believe, he should be able to whip his boys into better shape than they’re currently in. I know he prefers a hands-off approach to most issues, but someone needs to crack the whip and make guys pay the price in terms of playing time when they gamble too much on defense or behave carelessly with the ball. I’m all for the free-flowing game they’ve been playing, but resorting to the triangle offense to settle things down is nothing to be ashamed of and players who can run it should work their way into the rotation.
  5. A level of intensity expected of a championship caliber team that suffered an unceremonious exit from the biggest stage just a season ago. This is the most glaring absence from the Lakers’ game this year, and it’s completely bizarre to me. Aside from those first seven games and a few good stretches elsewhere, they have yet to act like they’re as upset by last year’s events as Sasha’s no-green clothing policy would seem to indicate. It’s understandable that you might have let-downs now and then when your ultimate goal is a championship, but it shouldn’t turn into an all-consuming malaise in which everyone acts like Shaq, only really showing up in the post-season. The lack of fire is especially apparent when you compare this team to the Celtics, who are blazing up the Eastern Conference in pursuit of one of the best records in NBA history. They are clearly intent upon repeating, while the Lakers appear intent upon slinking their way toward an underachieving season, devoid of that priceless hardware. I don’t care if it requires Rick Fox rising from the grave to punch Doug Christie behind the stands again, it just needs to happen. Wait, what’s that? You say he’s still alive? Damn…

So that’s it, Santa. Five very reasonable requests that would absolutely make my year. I haven’t asked for much since the team self-destructed following Shaq’s and Phil’s departures, but I am determined that they live up to the mantra of greatness they have gladly taken up for themselves and not waste any more opportunities. I hear that they have recently gotten together to sort out these matters themselves – particularly the defensive issues – and I take that as a sign that you are indeed in my corner on this one. I wouldn’t dare ask you for a title or even a win on Christmas day – that would be highly presumptuous and would border on Belichick levels of self-importance – but I trust you will see the reasonableness of my requests and the humility with which I present them. May all your Christmases be white, purple, and yellow.

Yours sincerely,

Emilee Woods

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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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Lakers Roll Suns: Shaq, How Does That Loss Taste?

Posted by hiphopmama on November 20, 2008

"I Hear Your Ass Tastes Lovely This Time of Year"

"I hear your ass tastes lovely this time of year"

LA Lakers 105, Phoenix 92

(9-1)

This will just be a short overview since I live-blogged the whole thing (see below), but a game like this deserves a proper write-up. For the first time this season, I’m starting to buy into this Lakers team. I know they were easy favorites preseason to win the Western Conference, and they got to the Finals last year, but their performance against the Celtics was almost pitiful and left me a little troubled about our future. Despite the tremendous start, the beginning of this season has done little to convince me we have overcome the problems that did us in last year. Tonight was the first step in the right direction for me.

We came out of the gate at a trot rather than a run and looked like our typical selves, shooting poorly and scrapping by on defense. Over time, however, a trend was set. The Suns could not get their offense going, aside from ramming it down our throats via Shaq, and Nash never got into the rhythm of the game. They surely missed Barbosa, who was out following the death of his mother in Brazil, but he would not have made much of a difference in this game. We steadily improved our offensive attack, getting sharper in our build-up and execution, and eventually the shots started falling. Kobe was mediocre again in his shooting, but he still carried the team and set the table for everyone. And “everyone” responded by having a great game. Fisher was pulling up with confidence. Sasha drained mid-range shots. Ariza dived about for 10 points. And, shocker of shockers, Vladimid Radmanovic stole the show with a 5-for-5 shooting performance from beyond the arc and 15 points, behind only Kobe’s 21. Odom played wonderfully off the bench, taking over the offensive leadership role when Kobe and Pau were out, and Farmar put in a solid 22 minutes as well. 

Only Pau Gasol was mysteriously out of the flow tonight. He didn’t really play terrible, but he didn’t seem to play much at all. After Chicago, I was hoping to see him be that involved more often, but tonight it was not to be.

No matter, because tonight it wasn’t necessary. The defense, while not looking overly stingy, was effective enough to keep the Suns out of their comfort zone the whole game, and as we got better on the offensive end our defensive efforts looked that much more impressive. This is the kind of game we need to see more often, not just in our grudge match with Shaquille. They still have a good string of games – at home, no less – in which to prove this wasn’t a fluke. At 9-1, it really shouldn’t be.

Highlights:

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Lakers-Suns: Completely Un-Live Live Blog

Posted by hiphopmama on November 20, 2008

Here’s the deal. I’ve wanted to try out this live blogging thing, but I can never do it because the games are on while I’m getting my daughter ready for bed. So I recorded this one and wrote it up as I watched. No game times are listed, because I’m a lazy bastard and couldn’t be bothered, but it’s all chronological, I assure you. I will probably never do it again, but here goes anyway. Full game recap to follow.

First Quarter

We’re defending better – when someone gets into the lane, the team is collapsing to take away the threat. It will take a while to see if their rotations are sharp enough to contain the kick-out passes that are sure to come out of team defending in the paint. Nash will definitely test this out.

I know I said no thanks to having Shaq back in LA, but one positive would be that he could teach Bynum a thing or two about playing the post. He has some of those moves down to a science and, when he’s interested in actually executing them, he’s almost impossible to stop. 

Oh my god. I actually saw Radmanovic do something. He just countered Barnes with his own three pointer early in the first.

Bynum looks like a novice out there next to Shaq, on both ends of the floor, but he has continued to demonstrate the benefits of the work he put into developing a mid-range jump shot during the off-season. 

We’re still not shooting well. Kobe’s stroke looks off, and Fisher is still working his way into the season.

Holy crap, Radmanovic again. Another three. He lives! 

And then he disappears in his coverage on defense. Oh well. At least we had a sighting.

Why don’t we go to Pau by design more early on when he just had an incredible game against Chicago? He gets 24 points in the first half two nights ago, and then he disappears for the early going of this game. We don’t even look like we’re running any kind of offense, just throwing it around. If it weren’t for Radmanovic’s two threes, we’d be down by close to double digits.

Coming off the bench seems to suit Lamar Odom pretty well. He’s an immensely skilled player who by all accounts should be a first option starter somewhere, but he can’t seem to shoulder the burden of a team’s offense. Because of this, the farther he is down the pecking order, the less pressure ther eis on him to perform, the better he does in his time on the court. I would love it if he could be a first-choice starter for us, because he’s got infinitely more to offer than either Radmanovic or Ariza, but Phil likes to have energy guys like that to bring off the bench so more power to him as long as it keeps working.

When Kobe goes to the rim, he almost always creates something good, whether it’s his own shot or an opportunity for a teammate. Why does he insist on just pulling up from distance all the time?

Great drive by Ariza in the last minute of the first. He made Grant Hill look his age (which is what? 40? 50? does he qualify for Social Security yet?). I still don’t want him making any decisions out there, but give him the ball with a sliver of daylight and let him go to work. He’s a great athlete.

FIRST QUARTER THOUGHTS (26-24): How the hell are we leading after that? (Aside from the 8-0 run with the super subs, I guess. They sure do their job.) Raja Bell nailed a couple open threes, Barnes added one of his own, and we shot pretty poorly. I would have thought we’d be down by around 5 points. I guess it’s a good sign that we can claw our way to about even when we’re doing so average. The Suns didn’t look too stellar, either, and Nash was no factor at all. Still recovering from the indignity of that scrum with Houston?

Second Quarter

Vujacic starts the quarter playing like “The Machine,” nailing two open jumpers on the wing. I like him…as long as he’s scoring and not running his mouth. By all accounts, he’s like that piece of food you just can’t get out from between your teeth that keeps on nagging you. Except with long hair. If he does his job, I think we’ll all deal with it.

Ooh, nice post move by Bynum. Maybe it’s starting to come together for him. It wasn’t against the Great Wall of Shaq, but nice nonetheless.

Great steal by Farmar against Singletary, although he almost messed up the lay-up.

Enough with the stupid fouls! If you’re going to take a clear foul, knock the shit out of the guy and make sure he doesn’t score!! It’s Grant Hill, for Christ’s sake! If he gets a chance for an and one, you fucked up.

This is an awkward line-up. Farmar, Vujacic, Ariza, Odom, and Bynum. I don’t see where the offense is going to come from.

Have we ever been able to guar the three point line? It seems like that has always been our Achilles heel, even when we were winning championships. 

Boris Diaw still looks strong out there. It’s crazy that he’s blossomed into such a good player. When I hear his name, I still automatically think of an old NBA Live game (2002, I think) when he was one of those players who was always available as a free agent. I remember thinking every time, “Who the hell is B. Diaw?”

Occasionally we’ll play a possession or two of really good half-court defense, swarming the ball and forcing bad passes, and it makes me wonder why we can’t string more of those together. It’s like we haven’t quite locked in with our focus for the full 48 yet. Hopefully with time that will come.

Radmanovic!! Another three! Haven’t I always said how central he is to this team?

We’ve done a better job of crashing the boards as the game has gone on, giving up fewer second chance points and getting out on some good mini-breaks before the defense can set up.

That’s how you close a quarter! We did it at the end of both the first and the second, turning  a deficit into a decent lead. That’s another thing we did well in those championship years. We’d look like crap most of the quarter, then go on a big run and finish the quarter up a good 5+ points. It demoralized the other team and set us up for the next quarter. Except the third. We always sucked in the third quarter.

FIRST HALF THOUGHTS (50-44): Where is Pau Gasol?? He made a couple passes and took a hard elbow in the chest from Shaquille, but he’s been positively Radmanovic on the offensive end. It seems like we should be making a concerted effort to get him involved early to get him going. I remember Stu Lantz saying of Cedric Ceballos way back in the day that he averaged all his points without the Lakers ever running a single play for him. Well, Pau is not that kind of player. I think he’d really benefit from our working to get him the ball in good positions. As a team, we’re playing halfway decent, but we look like we’re trying to skate through the game, which is a little worrying. At least the Suns offense hasn’t looked particularly potent. Shaq seems to have neutered their offensive attack. He may give them more muscle down low, but not enough to counter the lack of scoring.

Third Quarter

Too many turnovers for the Suns, even by Nash. We’re scoring easy points off them, which is a killer. For our part, one of the few things we’ve done well is hold onto the ball, turning it over very little.

Bynum has played better as the game has progressed. He’s one of those guys who really needs that confidence, and now that he has it he looks much smoother out there.

Aside from giving up some offensive boards, we’ve played more like a team the first few minutes of the third. Running the floor, moving the ball, taking good shots – all improvements from the first half. That fourth foul on Bynum hurts, though. He was just starting to warm up.

Radmanovic! Four-for-four! My favorite number from my new favorite player! 

Momentarily, of course, as he just missed his next heat-check three.

Is anyone playing well for the Suns? They keep feeding Shaq, who is playing well, but Nash is M.I.A. and Bell has disappeared as well. Diaw has been the only real bright spot, so I’m not sure why we haven’t seen him yet this half. Match-up problem? Stoudemire’s having an okay game too, but nothing spectacular and not enough to keep the Suns on pace, at least not yet. 

More good ball movement by the Lakers leads to an open shot, Mind you, it’s a shot we probably would have missed in our last few games, but it was a god offensive possession with a positive result.

Another rainbow three from #10! Five-for-six from Vladimir, and counting. This is honestly the first time I can remember noticing him on the floor all season. I hope it’s not the last.

D-Fish for three! Off a behind-the-back pass from Gasol. It was probably unnecessary, but it looked nice.

This is at least the third time tonight I’ve seen Odom come over to help on defense only to stand there with his arms down while the opponent took and nailed a shot with him playing way too far off the ball. Thanks for sliding over and all, but at least wave or clap at the dude. Maybe yell in his face or duck your head and charge toward him, anything but just stand there.

Another strong close to a quarter. That’s three-for-three.

THIRD QUARTER THOUGHTS (80-67): An overall better effort. The Suns’ offense is struggling, so I guess I have to give credit for that to our defense. We don’t appear to be doing anything out of the ordinary, which speaks even better of us since maybe it’s the kind of performance we can expect in the future. So far the role players are carrying us on offense. I could care less a long as somebody’s doing it. Let’s see how the second unit does, since I’m sure that’s what we’ll see from Phil to start the fourth.

Fourth Quarter

More good defense and disciplined offense, leading to an easy bucket for Farmar. More of the same, please.

I know I said Gasol shouldn’t be given the Cedric Ceballos treatment, but I think Trevor Ariza should. Don’t ever make him a focal point or decision-maker, but give him the freedom to roam a little bit and attack when there’s an opening. That seems to be his forte.

Shit, Nash for three. Let’s not let him get going. That would make it a tough finish.

Ooh, we’re stroking the ball now, finally. Even Ariza is hitting open perimeter jumpers. And now Odom for three. This is how we should be shooting all the time. 

Bynum is back on the floor after picking up that fourth foul. With no Shaq in the game, he should be able to do some damage, or at least stay in the game for a while. On his first touch, he makes a nice move with good footwork across the lane and takes what looks to be a good sweeping shot, but the left hand lets him down and it fails to reach the rim. That one make take a little longer to develop, Andrew.

Wow, everything is clicking right now. Farmar is draining contested shots from the baseline? Stoudemire can’t make an open lay-up? I guess it’s just not Phoenix’s night. They are missing Leandro Barbosa, but I don’t think that explains it.

Ariza’s energy just bought us another basket. He dove in for an offensive rebound off Kobe’s free throw miss, got the jump ball, then did enough with the tip for Sasha to snatch it away and drain an open shot. 

Phoenix took Shaq out and has been playing small ball the whole fourth quarter, but it hasn’t seemed to do much for them. They’re still down 15, so why not bring O’Neal back in? He could at least get those last couple fouls on Bynum, and possibly a few more on Odom and Gasol, neither of whom could guard him tonight. I guess they figure why tax him in a game that looks increasingly unwinnable.

Fabulous pass from Luke Walton to Farmar. I really love Luke. He’s a solid player with great vision and good court awareness, and I’d like to see him get more playing time. We seem to be stacked at the small forward position, but he couldn’t contribute less than Radmanovic at this point. Okay, tonight he was helpful, but can you say that about him in any other game this year? Luke has a history of performing for us when we need him and I know he knows the triangle, so give him a shot. 

We have shot so well in the fourth that we have a decent overall shooting percentage for the game (I think Marv said something like 47%). That’s saying something when Kobe is shooting poorly; I can’t imagine he’s better than 40%.

And the depleted, pro-Lakers Phoenix crowd goes nuts. Some fat guy rips up a paper Suns sign on the sideline as the buzzer sounds. That’s always a good sight: away fans cheering you on.

FINAL GAME THOUGHTS (105-92): This was the kind of win I wanted to see from them. They did okay on Tuesday against Chicago, but they should have beat them more thoroughly. Tonight, they got off to a slow start but built on their performance each quarter, eventually stomping over the Suns in the late third and fourth quarters. The passing was crisp, they executed pretty well, and the defense did its job, holding the Suns’ big guns in check (Nash was a mere 3-for-9 with 8 total points while Stoudemire was 9-for-21 with a quiet 21). The Lakers had 25 assists to just 7 turnovers; the Suns were 22 and 15, which is a high number for a Steve Nash team. The team played well up and down the roster, with Radmanovic turning in a surprisingly strong effort as the team’s second leading scorer with 15, and the bench all played well too. Pau Gasol’s disappearance after his great game two nights ago is a little worrisome, but it didn’t detract from an overall great game. This is the best the Lakers have looked since that early win against the Rockets, when they did the same thing: slowly build up to a blow-out after a sluggish start. Maybe the revamped pre-season approach Phil keeps talking about really did focus effectively on the defensive end. I hope so, because we’ll need considerable improvements there if we want to do better than we did last year.

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Lakers Bits

Posted by hiphopmama on November 17, 2008

The Lakers have a tough schedule coming up, with five games in eight days, including match-ups with Chicago, Phoenix, and Denver. Perhaps it’s for the best after the loss to Detroit. They got a few days off to mull it over and presumably come back stronger, and now they have a run of games to get back on track. In the meantime, we are left with some random developments on the Lakers front, including some typically funny but nonsensical comments from Shaq.

Kobe reportedly took the loss in stride, feigning surprise when being told that they no longer had a chance to go 82-0. As always, he mentioned his favorite term, “execution,” and claimed that it comes down to “little tweaks you make as the season goes on, so when the playoffs come around you’re clicking on all cylinders.” Lamar Odom, on the other hand, acted much testier in his post-game comments, storming off mid-interview and reflecting the anger I felt while watching the game. I get both sides: Odom was understandably frustrated with the team’s performance, but it’s Kobe’s job to keep his head about him and respond appropriately, which he did. Hopefully stable leadership will filter down and help the team down the line.

Bill Plaschke of the L.A. Times echoed my sentiments in more way than one. First, the Lakers lack that vaunted toughness they worked on all off-season and still got shoved around by an aging Pistons squad. Second, that Vladimir Radmanovic is all but invisible out there. And third, that, despite this being just one loss in a long season, the team would do well to take it seriously and remember exactly how and why they lost. It was, as Plaschke noted, “the same tired song we heard last June in Boston” when “the Celtics controlled the Lakers’ inside presence and easily won the game.” Bynum and Gasol must not be such pushovers inside and play like the seven-footers they are. 

Finally, the Big Aristotle is running his mouth again, in alternatingly entertaining and bizarre fashion. His most recent claims are that Phil Jackson fueled his rivalry with Kobe to elicit better performances out of the two superstars due to their competitive natures. He rightly remarked that Phil could have called them to his office and told them to cut it out but never did. Whether that gets either player off the hook for their childish antics remains doubtful, however. Shaq also expressed a possible desire to return to the Lakers when his contract is up in 2010. Um, first of all, no. And second of all, mm-mmm. I find it extremely unlikely that both Kobe and Phil would want to take all of the baggage on board again, especially if they continue to play well (fingers crossed). I wouldn’t say no outright to the idea, but Shaq was always out for about a third of the season before. Now, with his knees and feet aging exponentially, it seems dubious that he’d last for an extended run, unless he pulled one of his patented stay-hurt-till-the-playoffs stuns. And if that’s the case, he’ll probably be more expense than he’s worth.

That’s all the news for now. Tomorrow night we have the Bulls at home. Chicago is 5-5 and led by Ben Gordon’s 21 points a game and rookie Derrick Rose’s 5.6 assists. I’m eager to see whether we can stop another slasher from tearing us to bits.

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