All Balls Don’t Bounce

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

Posts Tagged ‘spurs’

I’m Baaaack!

Posted by hiphopmama on April 7, 2009

Scruffy white guy alert

Scruffy white guy alert

LA Lakers 122, Sacramento 104

(62-16)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Highlights:

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Laker Love

Posted by hiphopmama on March 14, 2009

Since there’s no game till tomorrow, I thought I’d post a few of the (many) articles about the Lakers currently making the rounds. Read, and be informed.

  • Popovich spoke almost reverentially of Kobe’s late-game heroics and his ability to feel the flow of every game, drawing a comparison with Michael Jordan. Nothing we didn’t already know, but it’s always nice to hear it from an opponent. 
  • Another good one from Kevin Ding in the OC Register, discussing Trevor Ariza’s new position as a starter and the low-key competitiveness which he channels in the direction the team needs from him. Between him and Luke Walton – who reportedly suggested that he try coming off the bench to Phil – we must have two of the most unselfish role players in the league.
  • The Lakers officially clinched the Pacific Division and a guaranteed playoff spot with their win over the Spurs on Thursday. Not that they particularly cared, seeing as how we’re all focusing on a much bigger prize, but good to know.
  • And in the best news of all, Andrew Bynum has started running on a treadmill in addition to the stationary bike work he has been doing. Praise be unto thee, oh lord. Now just let him come back in time for the playoffs…

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Hells Yeah!

Posted by hiphopmama on March 12, 2009

Road warriors

Road warriors

 

LA Lakers 102, San Antonio 95

(52-13)

That was some game, eh? Not that we ever expect anything less against the Spurs, but this one was particularly fun, admittedly because we won, unlike the last time we visited them. It was the Lakers’ second game in two nights, and also the second consecutive game in which we closed well. This time, though, the story line was a little different.

Instead of falling behind and having to dig ourselves out of a deficit, we absolutely jumped on the Spurs from the opening tip and carried an 18 point lead into the second quarter. Everything was working, and the Spurs looked old and sluggish. They put on a couple little runs to cut it to 15 at halftime, and then Popovich must’ve torn ’em all a new one, because they came out looking like a different team after that. They surged out on us in the third, led by Tony Parker and Tim Duncan, plus some clutch shooting from Michael Finley, who appeared not to miss damn near all game. As usual, we were lax in defending the three point line, and they burned us for it, making 11-of-17 shots from distance in the game. 

The Spurs’ comeback was a two-steps-forward-one-step-back kinda deal. They would cut into the lead, then go cold, then watch as we extended it back to double figures. That script played out a few times, from the San Antonio run to start the fourth quarter, through our surge in response to restore the lead to 10, all the way to the last two and a half minute mark, when Tony Parker pulled up and nailed a three to cut the lead to two. With the lead down to a single bucket and the clock winding down, who else did you really expect to come to the rescue? Kobe waited around on the offense for a while before just pulling up for a long three from the left wing, making Spurs rookie George Hill look foolish for ever thinking he could deter him. That shot was a back-breaker, and the Spurs never recovered. Duncan scored a deuce on the next possession, but Pau followed it with an easy shot earned from the high double-team Kobe got. On their next possession, the Spurs looked likely to get another easy score when Farmar got picked off on a screen, but – real shocker here – our defensive rotation worked to perfection, as Duncan fielded the pass and turned to find Odom in his lap. Timmy wanted the foul, but the refs called a jump ball instead, which LO won and which sent us on our way. They had a few more chances, but they were all well defended, and I found myself swelling with pride as the defense suffocated all the shots San Antonio wanted. Why we can’t do that more than once or twice a game is beyond me, but at least the D was there when we needed it. Sasha’s two free throws closed it out and we got another win in the second game of a back-to-back.

I must admit that I’m thoroughly amazed at how we’ve turned it around in these last two games after some shoddy play of late, particularly the Portland game. It took us a while to get going against Houston, but once we did we never looked back, and that momentum carried over into this crucial game against the Spurs. Doug Collins was dead on when he noted that the Spurs are not a good come-from-behind team because of their methodical (plodding?) offense, and an 18 point first quarter deficit proved to be too much to overcome. Wait a second – is that the second time in two nights that I’ve praised an announcer? Something must be seriously wrong with me…

Game recap:

Highlights:

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Sweet Victory

Posted by hiphopmama on January 25, 2009

That's what I like to see.

That's what I like to see.

San Antonio 85, LA Lakers 99

(35-8 )

That was pleasant. After losing that heartbreaker in San Antonio a week ago, it was nice to see us take up the challenge and do what we should have done in that first game: put them away. So the outcome was definitely nice, but there were plenty of other things to rejoice about in this one. Kobe out of the game and icing his knees before the fourth quarter even started? Fisher playing just 25 minutes? Farmar making his triumphant return? All priceless, and that doesn’t even include how well Bynum held his own against Duncan, which is cause for celebration in and of itself. I am rarely at a loss for words of critique with the Lakers, but I am happily stumped right now and will content myself with raving about the spirit we found to regroup after our second set of back-to-back losses of the year. 

I almost forgot my biggest source of pride for the evening: the bench’s closing abilities. It was only because of that that Kobe and all the rest got to sit out the last 10+ minutes, as Farmar, Vujacic, Radmanovic, Ariza, and Powell did something they’ve struggled with all year, which was to hold onto a sizable lead until the final whistle. The fact that we were at home surely had something to do with it, but I’m still jazzed nonetheless. Farmar’s return had a noticeable effect on the squad and was probably a key reason for our consistently high level of play throughout, as his solid play kept other backcourt guys from accumulating too many minutes and helped keep the squad fresh. 

It was also heartening to see us play at a more Spurs-like pace and still come out the victors. We did almost break the 100-point barrier, but we held San Antonio to 85 on 37.5% shooting and held them to 21.7% three-point shooting. That’s quite a feat against this team, which is right up at the top of the NBA in that category. It wasn’t the toughest scrum we’ve had against them, to be sure, and we were able to coast to the finish line after opening up a big lead early in the second half, but that in itself is something to be proud of, as we’ve certainly had our struggles doing that this year.

And that’s all I really have to say about that one. It was satisfying to watch us win that way, and you have to believe that the fully rejuvenated bench had something to do with it. Now if we can just keep our guys healthy the rest of the way, we have a good chance of securing that dreamed about home court advantage. I know we have the highest number of road games left for any team, but we’re not exactly chumps away from Staples. We are currently 12-5 on the road, and there are at least a couple among those five losses that could easily have been ours if we had executed better. Indiana comes to mind. And Miami. And Orlando. And San Antonio. I have no comment on that Sacramento game.

Game recap:

And highlights:

Couldn’t ask for much more on a Sunday afternoon. =)

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Damn

Posted by hiphopmama on January 14, 2009

The Shot

The Shot

LA Lakers 111, San Antonio 112

(31-7)

That’s all I can say about this one. Damn. We shouldn’t have even been in a position to win it after going down by eleven midway through the fourth. With the Spurs’ touted defense, that should have been game, set, and match. But somehow, with Kobe pulling all the strings and Josh Powell draining jumpers, we chipped away and eventually took the lead. 

It finished just like all our other big match-ups with this team, with one incredible shot after another. With the Spurs down one, Tim Duncan drives to the basket, encounters a few defenders, and appears to lose the ball, which flies up out of his hands and rattles through. Spurs up one. No time out, of course, because Phil doesn’t play that game, so Kobe dribbles up, waits for the plan to crystallize in his perfect mind, sees Mason sagging off him, and fires a three, knowing it’s going in. And it does. Lakers up two. There are 10 seconds left and the Lakers have a foul to give. San Antonio is out of timeouts. If we can just execute here, the worst we leave with is overtime. Can you guess what happens? An almost steal, Fisher ends up behind Mason, who steps just inside the three point line, gets nailed from behind by Fish, and drains the shot. Tie game, Mason going to the line. He makes the free throw, but there are still more than nine seconds left. Once again, no time out, and this time I disagree. The first time, there was no dead ball in between, no chance for Pop to sub players in or out for defensive purposes. This time, with the free throw, the Spurs got to reset and prepare defensively. So instead of drawing up a play to make sure Kobe is the deciding factor, on either the pass or the shot, he dribbles up court and of course the Spurs trap him at half court to get the ball out of his hands. He finds Ariza at the top of the key, which doesn’t seem so bad at first. But then he traveled. 0.8 seconds left. Game over.

It would have been sickening if it wasn’t so damn much fun to watch. I’m glad I’m a little older, although not much wiser, because this is the kind of game that would have had me sulking for a week in the past. Now, though, I just sit in awe after watching an incredible game of basketball. Would I have liked to see us win it? Absolutely, especially because we earned it down the stretch. When it matters, we are excellent late in fourth quarters, except for one critical moment: that last defensive possession. No matter what we do, that one always kills us. Teams don’t always make us pay – like Houston didn’t last night, like the Heat didn’t – but the better teams will, as San Antonio proved. I don’t know what can be done to remedy the problem, considering what quality and experience we have on the court in those situations, but it has to be fixed, because we have a troubling tendency to make games closer than they need to be and closing out is crucial. 

It’s a tough one, to be sure, but I’m slowly coming around to Phil’s long-term view on the season. We aren’t even at the All-Star break and we’re in a dead heat with three other teams – all from the Eastern Conference – for the best record in the NBA. This was the second game of a road back-to-back and we had not one single guard available to come off the bench (unless you count Sun Yue, which I don’t). We’ve been without a back-up point guard for a while now, and we just got our true sixth man back. I’m not whining – and I’m certainly not going to act a Kings fan and discredit the Spurs’ win because of it (still bitter – can you tell?) – but it helps lessen the blow somewhat. I still don’t think that, at the end of a grueling season, in a seven game series, the Spurs or any other Western Conference team can take us. How we hold up against the East in the Finals is another story, but I’m not counting anybody out at this point.

The talk after the game from a number of corners was about whether or not Ariza actually traveled or was tripped, and how the Lakers reacted to the ref’s call. Even before that last play, I had been thinking about how well officiating is handled in the NBA. I’ve always complained about how the NFL can be both so precise and so lax in its officiating – with all those rules about who can be on the line of scrimmage and where and eligible this and that, you would think that they would be able to properly call a delay of game penalty when it occurs or stop the clock as soon as a team calls a timeout. Yet these things routinely go awry. Soccer has its own set of problems with, I believe, not enough officials to cover such a huge pitch and squabbles over potentially allowing replay for key situations. And I’m not even going to talk about baseball, because that’s a joke – both the sport itself and the way it’s run. (Tell me we still need the umpire system we currently have when ESPN can tell me definitively if it’s a strike or a ball.) The NBA, though, has an effective, streamlined system that works so often that we are able to pick out the bad moments so easily and belabor them. I’m not gonna lie – there’s a good argument to be made that Ariza was tripped, but it’s not something I get bitter over because I know everything else has been done to ensure that the game is called correctly and, more often than not, it is. When tennis first started its replay system, everyone was amazed to see just how often calls were missed. As it turned out, the lines were called correctly the vast majority of the time, with player challenges being held up around 30% of the time and often less. And that’s only when players choose to challenge, not even including the other calls that everyone accepts as correct. All I’m trying to say is that, while it’s easy to bash the refs (and they should be held accountable when they eff it up), I gotta give credit where it’s due, and the NBA has been easily the most judicious in keeping its officiating house in order. I love NBA refs, even Joey Crawford’s punk ass, and I have a personal affinity for a lot of them, including Danny Crawford and Violet Palmer. So whether or not they got it right tonight, it still sits well with me because, Tim Donaghy aside, I’m not worried about some sort of Calciopoli-type scandal going on. Keep up the good work, dudes.

Game recap:

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Lakers Hold Off Nuggets To Start 3-0

Posted by hiphopmama on November 2, 2008

LA Lakers 104, Denver 97

(3-0)

I’m dying. Now that I’m finally getting back into basketball seriously, I’m no longer in southern California and I can only watch the nationally televised Lakers games. Not that that’s too shabby, since they’re a top-tier (and big market) team, but dammit I want them all! ESPN’s little play-by-play thing is cool, but I couldn’t find any p2p results for it. Does that shit exist for NBA games?

The game itself was a good one, with the Lakers coming out of the gates quickly yet having to fight a tough battle against the road-weary Nuggets during the middle portion of the game. Carmelo Anthony looked miserable, coming back after a two-game suspension, and was almost held to single digits for the first time since 2005. He eventually knocked down a couple buckets in the fourth quarter to help Denver make a run, but his late airball and Kobe’s shot at the other end got things back under control and spelled the end for the Nuggets. Kobe had his highest point title of the young season, scoring 33 points in 33 minutes – how’s that for productivity? He was 11-24 from the field and 10-12 from the free throw line with 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, and 1 turnover. Lakers top scorers:

  • Kobe Bryant: 33 pts, 11-24
  • Pau Gasol: 16 pts, 7-15
  • Derek Fisher: 11 pts, 4-10
  • Vladimir Radmanovic: 11 pts, 2-7
  • Lamar Odom: 10 pts, 3-9

I didn’t get to watch the game, so I can only surmise from the Nuggets’ 45.9% shooting percentage that the defense wasn’t quite up to the same standard as in the first two games. On the other hand, they appear to have clamped down on Anthony pretty well, which is no mean feat, although by his account “rust” had plenty to do with it as well. 

Phil played a hefty rotation again, using 11 of 12 guys this time, and 10 of them got in the scoring column. Poor Luke Walton appears to have fallen out of favor for reasons I cannot understand. He played 2 minutes and was the only one to get minutes and not score. 

Elsewhere, San Antonio has started the season 0-2, losing close games to Phoenix and Portland. After all those years of nail-biting playoff match-ups with the Lakers, I still can’t root for them. But they’re a lot harder to hate now, all old and toothless. I know they’ve got that streak of winning every other Championship, but it’s hard to believe that will continue this year. They’ll definitely be in the mix, because they have Tim Duncan and the same coach core of players around him, but it seems like a longshot that they’ll make it through the regular season and post-season without any serious injury or fatigue setbacks. Maybe fourth seed, behind LA, New Orleans, and Houston?  (The Hornets and Rockets are also 3-0, as are the Raptors.)

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